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I have delivered the Samurai Game to 7th graders for the last 6 years at a local school and will be back again in Feb 2016. I have delivered the game at other schools including for High School Seniors. I agree with Lance’s suggestion that you be careful with the ninja. I rarely let them make mischief but that often leaves those students who are the ninja’s feeling disappointed about the role because I have mentioned the possibility of making mischief.
I have a set of classroom resources that I had developed to support the delivery of the Game. The schools sometimes use them, most commonly are the research assignments producing a poster on topics like Samurai, Daimyo, Aikido, Ikebana, Haiku, Ninja, etc. It is a good way to get some of the context of the experience to them.
It has been my experience that first time schools are only prepared to allow a single day for experience. I explain to them the benefits that come from having a debrief the day after and share my hope that they will continue to debrief and discuss the experience in the classroom in the days and weeks that follow. (They often do and I am told that many students include the Samurai Game experience in their end of year reflections as one of the highlights of the year.) Because the school day is of a fixed length, I always request an hour with the students in their classroom a day or two before the Game. That way they get to meet me before the day, I get to look at their posters and I cover off on the roles, safety rules, introduce the concept of dying (reference to “re-spawning” or other video game related terms quickly gets the idea across that death might not be the end of the experience) and tell them that the Game has already started. It seems to get them excited about the day, ask any questions they might be concerned about and gives me a chance to get a feel for the group.
Some other thoughts that might be helpful (in no particular order):
* I have run Games for between 30 and 50 students and have used school halls and basketball courts. 50 7th Grade boys really test you out!
* I always require teachers to be present and watch (for the kid’s safety and for mine!) but I find that the teachers will often see sides of the students they had never been able to see before (particularly kids with “learning difficulties”) and my sense is that shift in the teacher can deliver more value to the students concerned than their experiences in the game.
* Certificates are better if they are laminated as paper doesn’t last long in a school bag!
* It is good if the Principal understands what you are doing and what the value is in the experience. I have been told that some parents have complained (“Why did my Johnny spend the whole day lying on the floor and not being able to move??”) and those concerns can be easily responded to if the Principal is aware that Johnny was only playing the “game” part of the experience for a maximum of 2 hrs, that he might have spent longer in the graveyard than he would have liked but that might have been because of the choices Johnny made and that Johnny’s reporting of the experience is understandably subjective.
* I have had teachers play (starting as Ronin) as well. I think it is better for High School groups than 7th Graders. The High School groups seem better able to include a teacher as just another Samurai and depending on the teacher’s capacity to share their internal experience it can provide extremely powerful opportunities for reflection when the kids see the teachers struggling with many of the same challenges as they are.